Women faculty at UC San Francisco see room for improvement

By Bill Gordon

While faculty members at the University of California, San Francisco generally feel great satisfaction in their work, women faculty members report much more difficulty with income levels, leadership opportunities, and support for their lives outside of the workplace, according to results of a survey released today.

UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, MD, commissioned the survey to gather information and help shape an ongoing effort to improve the climate for women faculty members.

“My ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for women faculty at UCSF and create an optimal environment to which we can attract and retain future faculty,” Bishop said in a letter addressed to 14 faculty members asked to serve on a new Task Force on Faculty Life at UCSF.

Bishop asked the task force members to submit a report with recommendations in October, 2002.
Belden Russonello & Stewart, a research and communications firm in Washington, D.C., conducted the survey in the spring and summer of 2001.  All 1,787 UCSF faculty members women and men received the 78-question survey form, and 1,057 filled out and returned them a return rate of 60 percent.  The composition of the UCSF faculty includes 36 percent women and 64 percent men, a larger proportion of women than many other universities or academic medical centers.

The survey results were presented to the chancellor’s executive committee on April 24 in a 120-page report entitled “The Climate for Women on the Faculty at UCSF.”
Bishop appointed Dorothy F. Bainton, MD, UCSF vice chancellor for academic affairs, to shape and oversee the preparation of the survey with an ad hoc group of women faculty members. W. Sue Shafer, PhD, UCSF assistant vice chancellor for research, worked with Bainton in planning the effort.

“With a high response rate for the survey and high marks for the inspirational work of the campus, it is clear that the faculty cares deeply about the institution and its accomplishments,” said Bainton.  “Now, we hope to use the great store of information provided by the survey to help create a place where women share equally in the life and opportunities of the campus.”
Key findings of the report include the following:

* Male and female faculty members express satisfaction with the nature of their work as professionals and share an enthusiasm for the intellectual stimulation of their jobs. (Male and female faculty members reported the same levels of satisfaction 59 percent very satisfied, 32 percent fairly satisfied with the intellectual stimulation provided by UCSF.)
* Women are less optimistic than men about future prospects at UCSF.  Women faculty members expressed a perception that their chances of obtaining a leadership position are significantly worse than the male faculty members thought were their chances to be placed in leadership positions. (While 59 percent of male faculty members reported feeling very or fairly satisfied with their potential for a leadership position, 47 percent of women faculty members responded in the same way. Conversely, 23 percent of women felt fairly or very dissatisfied with their potential for a leadership position, compared to 16 percent of men.)
* Faculty members report that working at UCSF takes a heavy toll on their lives outside work.  Women, in particular, expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of time they have available to spend outside work.  (Among women faculty members, 59 percent reported feeling dissatisfied with the amount of time they have for their family and outside interests.  Among male faculty members, 46 percent reported the same levels of dissatisfaction.)
* Faculty members especially women say the demands of work at UCSF seem overwhelming.  (Three-quarters of women and six in 10 men say they have to work an unhealthy, unreasonable amount of time to succeed at UCSF.)
* Women are far more likely than men to believe that the system penalizes those who take maternity leave.  (Among women, 26 percent feel strongly that this penalty occurs.  Among men, 7 percent report the same feeling.)

Both male and female faculty members criticized UCSF’s performance in informing new faculty members of career options available to them, the advantages and disadvantages of career tracks, and the promotion process, but women report a more negative experience than men.  Female faculty members are particularly critical of UCSF for inadequately welcoming new women to the institution and providing mentors.

A stark difference in the way men and women view the work environment at UCSF is also illustrated in perceptions of how the campus deals with sex discrimination.

Forty percent of women described UCSF’s record of providing an atmosphere free of sex discrimination as good or excellent, compared to 64 percent of men.  A perception exists among women faculty members at UCSF that difficulty in receiving promotions and lower salaries are the most frequent (22 percent in each case) forms in which gender inequity occurs.  Among men, promotion was cited by 17 percent and lower salaries by 2 percent.

Nearly half (47 percent) of women faculty members reported feeling they have been discriminated against on the basis of gender.  Only 8 percent of men reported the same.

The report cites efforts that faculty members believe might prove most effective in attracting and keeping top female faculty members, including creating a climate that promotes mentoring and advancement, family-friendly policies, and financial benefits.

* More mentoring, better role models, and more women in leadership positions are among the most-advocated steps.
* More flexibility and part-time work, assistance with childcare and spousal employment, and more encouragement to work regular hours are frequent suggestions.
* Higher salaries and help with the cost of housing in the Bay Area would be strong inducements to attracting female candidates.

“The results are, on the one hand, encouraging,” Bishop wrote in a message to UCSF faculty members.  “Most of our faculty both women and men are happy at UCSF and hope to remain here.  Moreover, a number of the prevalent dissatisfactions detected by the survey are already being addressed by major campus or University of California-wide initiatives (examples include pay equity, childcare, housing, mentoring, and part-time work).

“On the other hand, there is much room for improvement, particularly with measures that would support women in their pursuit of academic careers and protect them against discrimination.”

The full report is available on the Internet at the following address: